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Capgemini mentors share their experiences of supporting our Digital Academy students

Sally Caughey
20 Jun 2019

Capgemini’s Digital Academy, in partnership with Code Your Future aims to support those from disadvantaged backgrounds, including refugees, to help develop digital skills and provide support to fast-track their career in tech.

With a team of 57 Capgemini volunteers acting as mentors and trainers, we are supporting students from disadvantaged and refugee communities in learning JavaScript programming.   Seventy percent of course participants are expected to find employment within six months of completing the course, with ten of those intended for placement directly with Capgemini in the UK on permanent contracts.

The  Code Your Future students are supported by carefully selected Capgemini mentors (both business and technical) who are helping them navigate their learning journeys. Here two of our mentors explain why they got involved, and reflect on their experiences.   The Code Your Future partnership is part of Capgemini’s global commitment to Digital Inclusion, that has seen the opening of seven academies to date, with more planned.

Dane Waby, Frontend Developer, Digital Customer Experience.

When I first heard about Code Your Future (CYF), I was particularly intrigued by the fact that a non-profit organisation was not simply seeking to provide basic support for refugees, it was aiming a lot higher.

“In their journey of interrupted lives, unfinished studies and integration challenges, many of these individuals yearn to update their tech skills, but lack learning opportunities.”  – Code Your Future’s mission is to support these people achieve their dream of becoming professional developers.

As my current role is a frontend developer, I felt I was well suited to helping out as one of the many volunteer teaching assistants and registered as a CYF mentor.

My first experience was helping to interview the candidates for our first cohort. Spending the afternoon at the Islington campus I learnt that CYF’s ambitious target has been achieved through other courses, many times over.

I was paired with a graduate from the first London course and we, along with a number of other volunteers, held informal interviews with the candidates.

Meeting the candidates and hearing about their experiences and their ambitions was, of course, humbling and inspiring. However, the most enjoyable part of the interview was when the candidates discovered that one of the people interviewing them was a graduate of the course and was now working as a developer.

Being able to meet and chat to a graduate seemed to give the candidates a huge amount of optimism; as if their ambition to become a developer was not only achievable but was now within reach. It also gave me a lot of confidence in the course content and the people delivering it. It was at this point that I decided I would be happy to commit to becoming a regular mentor.

At the time of writing I have attended several of the Sunday learning sessions and provided one-to-one guidance to students as they work through their programme.  The course material is presented by the trainers with a lot of group discussion and interaction. Students are also given the opportunity to talk through their code, which they wrote as part of homework assignments. After the teaching sessions the students then work through new tasks, which are set in the course material.

As a mentor you don’t need to have any formal teaching experience – you just need a desire to help others develop skills which will enable them to code their own future. It is an enjoyable and rewarding way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

I am finding my experience rewarding – it’s great to help close the digital skills gap by supporting the learning journey of those from disadvantaged or under-represented groups, and I would highly recommend getting involved as a mentor or volunteer with Code Your Future.

Sanyia Saidova, Enterprise Architect, Cloud Infrastructure Services

I signed up as a mentor because I support Capgemini’s ambition to make sure the advances in technology are inclusive.  I was once one of those people who could have benefitted from a programme like this, but I have been lucky and have found other opportunities to bring me to where I am today.

I wanted to participate in this course to gain a better understanding of the digital divide and learn what I can do to reduce it. I also want to make programmes like this more widespread. I know that businesses, communities and individuals can all benefit from this reduction, especially as society moves closer to automation. Finding opportunities where one can learn and put their learning to practice is key to reducing this divide.

CYF offers plenty of opportunity for technical and non-technical volunteers to learn and develop themselves. My Sunday sessions have enabled me to become much more than a technical mentor. I have become technical assistant, a soft skills mentor, and I’ve even led a class.

I am also developing and improving my skills – both as a presenter, and teacher. One of the most insightful parts of the programme is the psychometric test with its 41-page report of your strengths and weaknesses. After that, you’re paired with a mentee who’s on the opposite end of the psychometric spectrum so that it becomes a journey for both of you. As well as supporting my mentee in helping her find work and reach her goals, I’m learning a lot about how I can improve myself based on how well she handles things I couldn’t dream of yet!

The team work and community at CYF are amazing. It’s best seen when the students bring out lunch. CYF has worked to solve the lunch problem by nominating teams to cook for the week. It’s excellent, because you get to try different cuisines from some of the students’ home countries. After lunch, the team who did the cooking that week get a round of applause and everybody helps clean up. This is the teamwork, that is the foundation for the course. There was no hesitance from anyone to help out.

My short-term goal is to help my mentee achieve her goals in the next six months. My long-term goal is to find out what more can be done to adopt a model like CYF’s so that businesses and individuals benefit from reducing the digital divide.

This blog is the last in a series of three.  Last month we heard the stories from our students, finding out what had bought them to the course.  Previously Sally Caughey, our UK Head of Digital Inclusion, shared her insights into our first Digital Academy Read more here about Capgemini’s commitment to digital inclusion